03/30/2011 4:50PM

Gio Ponti expected to return to Florida on Sunday


Gio Ponti, fifth in last Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, arrived at Belmont Park late Wednesday afternoon, and after spending two days in quarantine is expected to van to Payson Park in time for a Sunday arrival.

After finishing fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the 2010 World Cup, Gio Ponti was beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the World Cup on Saturday. In his first start since finishing second to Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, Gio Ponti seemed a bit fresh in the World Cup, raced closer to the pace than usual, and was wide throughout under Ramon Dominguez.

“I thought the horse ran a remarkable race knowing that he did not have a prep race,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “He ran even better than I expected him to. He got beat 1 3/4 lengths without a prep race and no racing luck.’’

Clement said that Gio Ponti was one of three North American-based horses that suffered an allergic reaction to a bug bite in Dubai. Clement said the issue was resolved by race day and that he was not using it as an excuse.

As he did last year, Clement will give Gio Ponti the month of April to recover from the World Cup and the long trip to Dubai and then start him back in training in May with the hopes of making the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park on June 11. Last year, Gio Ponti finished second, beaten a half-length by his stablemate Winchester, in the Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Clement said that Winchester, who won the Manhattan and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, will make his seasonal debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland on April 29.